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12 ways a parent can be great — from the Band of Brothers

Apr 29, 2014 // By Marcus Brotherton
George Potter with family

Back from WWII, George Potter with his young family.

What’s it like when an elite paratrooper comes home from WWII, gets married, and becomes a parent?

Not every man succeeded at making the transition from soldier to family man. But plenty of others make the transition just fine.

I’ve had the privilege of interviewing many of the still-living Band of Brothers, the elite WWII paratroopers of the now-legendary Easy Company, 506th PIR, 101st A/B. I’ve also interviewed a lot of their children, who are now mostly in their 50s and 60s.

Knowing the veterans’ propensity for humility, I doubt if any of the men would have classified themselves as “experts on parenting.”

Still, their examples of parenting offer us much to learn from, even today.

The following quotes were selected from my book A Company of Heroes, where the adult-age children remember their deceased fathers, all members of E Company.

The quotes show us 12 ways a parent can be great.



Be at home

as much as you can

“Dad loved being a family man. At 5 o’clock his colleagues in the oil business knocked off work to go have drinks. But Dad wasn’t a drinker. He’d say, ‘Why in the hell would I want to go drink with your sorry asses when I’ve got the most beautiful wife and gorgeous family waiting for me at home.’”

Elizabeth Gordon, Linda Gordon, Cleta Tracy Gordon,
Gay Gordon, and Scotty Gordon,
daughters and son of Walter ‘Smokey’ Gordon


Help make small,

fun events meaningful

“We were a typical American family in many ways, just growing up eating macaroni & cheese, watching TV, always having fun among ourselves.

One of my sister’s favorite memories is when we were little and went to the city swimming pool. All of us kids took turns climbing on Dad’s shoulders to jump off.”

—Greg Garcia,
son of Tony Garcia


Let your kids

see your scars

“[My father] went on patrol Halloween night, 1944, along with Captain Winters. The two men were checking on machine gun positions when Dad forgot the password and was shot twice by one of his own men.

Dad never talked about his injury. Not a word. But he had a good-sized scar on his shoulder and the whole calf on the back of his right leg was virtually gone.

Dad always wore shorts in the summer, and I remember seeing his scars, as a kid. He wore ski boots, the old leather kind that that attached into spring bindings. He said the whole bottom of his foot was numb, and that the ski boots were the best sole he could find to make sure that he didn’t step on something and not know it. Plus, the ski boots were heavy and he said, ‘I need the workout.’”

—Fred Heyliger, Jr.
son of Fredrick ‘Moose’ Heyliger


g. Ranney

After WWII, Mike Ranney with his young family.

Spend time one-on-one

with each child

“When I was 9 or 10 I remember working on his car with him, holding the lights in the evenings. I liked being one-on-one with dad.”

—Drew Ranney Coble,
daughter of Mike Ranney


Be friends with

your kids’ friends

“When I was a teen, my friends liked to come over to the house. Dad often sat down and played cards with us.”

—Jerry Lamoureux,
son of Paul ‘Frenchy’ Lamoureux


Tell your kids funny stories

you make up

“He told us a story he made up called ‘The Little Boy Who Didn’t Like Ice Cream.’ This story always included the world’s smartest elephant who travelled around the jungle with a huge typewriter carried around by ‘coolies,’ (the term isn’t politically correct anymore, but that’s the word Dad used).

People continually came up to this elephant and asked him yes or no questions. The bearers sprung into action and assembled a huge typewriter, and the elephant would type out his one word reply. Y-E-S or N-O. Then they disassembled the typewriter and continued their wild trek through the jungle.

The story went on and on. We absolutely loved it. I should mention that the typewriter was a complete keyboard despite that every question could be answered yes or no.

We used to point out that this elephant did not even need a typewriter, he could just stomp a foot once for yes and twice for no, for instance. But then the whole story would have lost its appeal, Dad said with a grin.”

—Mike Lipton,
son of C. Carwood Lipton

O'Keefe with daughter

Patrick O’Keefe with his daughter, Kris, at the Grammy Awards, 2002

Show your kids

you’re a reader

“Dad was a voracious reader and a regular at the Aspen Hill Library. He read several books each week, everything from historical fiction, to detective novels, to books about ancient languages, cave drawings, and early civilizations.

He kept a bookcase at home in the bathroom downstairs—that’s how much he loved reading.”

—Kris O’Keefe,
daughter of Patrick O’Keefe


Teach your kids how

to stand on their own.

“[When I got out of college] I think he really wanted me to take over his construction business. I remember him saying, ‘I don’t understand why an educated man would ever want to work for someone else.’

That was his view of independence—being able to stand on your own. He had worked himself up to running construction companies with the limited education he had. So he really valued a man starting and running his own business.”

—Eugene Roe, Jr.
son of Gene ‘Doc’ Roe


Be thrifty yet generous

“The atmosphere in our home while growing up was fun, particularly with eight kids on a barber salary. We didn’t have a lot, but we always had shoes and clothes, and were always well fed.

One of my favorite memories is whenever Dad took the family to the beach. He had only one day off per week, and he took us to the Long Beach pike, an amusement park with a rollercoaster and pinball games.

There wasn’t much money to go around, but we always had fun.”

—Jim Liebgott,
son of Joe Liebgott

Make life an adventure

“What was life like growing up with my father? Mostly a huge adventure. Nothing was ever exciting enough for him. Some kind of adrenaline fueled whatever he undertook.

I’ve got videos of him as a newsman in San Diego. They were building high rises, and he decided to do a story on the ironworkers. So there he is walking on steel girders thirty stories up.

Or when parasailing first started in early 1960s, he tried parasailing as part of a news story.

He was the first newsman on West Coast to fly Mach 2 in a fighter jet. That’s the kind of stuff he regularly did.

Dad loved outdoors and camping, and he did a lot of that with us. It didn’t matter the season, he’d take us camping year around. He took us tobogganing in winter. He was active when we were Boy Scouts. He could always add more adventure to a situation. That’s how he liked it.”

—Dan Potter,
son of George L. Potter Jr.


Do what it takes to

provide for your family

“In the early days of his teaching career, he actually worked two jobs. He taught school during the week. On weekends he was the assistant manager at the Paso Robles Airport. He fueled planes when they came in and kept an eye on things.

He didn’t earn Social Security with the school district in those days, but he did with his airport job, and so he wanted that for his family.”

—Don Rader and Robin Rader,
son and daughter of Robert Rader


Hack Hanson & daughter

Hack Hanson and his daughter.

Love your spouse in big ways

“Mom and Dad had a good marriage and got along well. Mom adored Dad, and vice versa.
They went out every Saturday night to dinner or to go dancing.”

—Karen Hanson Hyland,
daughter of Herman ‘Hack’ Hanson

Question: What’s one way your father or mother parented you well?



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the bestselling author or coauthor of more than 25 books. Welcome to my blog. Thoreau pointed out how too many people lead lives of quiet desperation. Their lives are bland and meaningless, or they make choices that trap them in despair and darkness. By contrast, I want to help people lead lives of excellence. Meet here regularly for powerful stories and insight into how to live and lead well.